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3-D TV Makes Waves in 2010 as ESPN, Discovery Announce Major Initiatives

By | March 18, 2010

      by Mark Holmes

      The momentum behind 3-D TV has picked up in recent months, with many channel launches set for this year. BSkyB, ESPN, DirecTV and Discovery Communications, among others, plan to launch 3-D TV offerings this year.
          Bryan McGuirk, senior vice president of media solutions at SES World Skies, said he has been surprised at how quickly the 3-D TV market is beginning to unfold. “I think the absolute critical mass surprised everyone. We expected one or two 3-D TV channel announcements, but five all at once? That’s impressive. I think the critical mass behind 3-D is going to accelerate adoption even faster than HD,” he said.
          Satellite pay-TV operators likely will  take the lead in the delivery of 3-D TV services ahead of cable and IPTV counterparts. BSkyB and DirecTV are the early leaders. “Satellite as a platform is ideal for 3-D. Some platforms have problems delivering a wide range of HD channels. We are using the same bandwidth for 3-D as that used for a typical Sky Sports HD broadcast,” said Gerry O’Sullivan, Sky’s director of strategic product development and leader of the company’s 3D initiative. BSkyB is committed to launch a dedicated 3-D TV channel this year and has demonstrated a live Premiership game this year.
          O’Sulivan believes one reason 3-D TV is so compelling for operators is the lack of additional investment needed on top of an investment in HD infrastructure. “We have demonstrated that we don’t have to re-engineer everything in order to do this. We piggy back on our investment in HD,” he said.
          In the United States, DirecTV, ESPN and Discovery Communications will be early leaders in providing 3-D TV content. “Our plans for 3-D were motivated by wanting to serve our sports fans,” Chuck Pagano, executive vice president of technology for ESPN, said. “They have a very high index of adapting to new technologies faster than normal viewers. We made a decision based on our belief that people will be buying 3-D TV sets, and there were around 100 different 3-D TV models shown at CES this year. Our first-year strategy is doing 85 events rather than a channel on our own 3-D network,” he said.
          Pagano also believes the spate of 3-D movies will do nothing but help the adoption of 3-D TV. “A lot of studios, such as Disney, are committing to 3-D movies. You can look at the success of the movie Avatar as an example. That movie increased the interest of people. We are not pushing 3-D. We are making it available to people who would like to go there.”
          For satellite operators, 3-D TV is another exciting growth opportunity, and FSS operators are looking to seize opportunities. “It is good news for us to hear DreamWorks, Sony, BSkyB and Intel executives get excited on the potential of 3-D for cinemas, pubs and in the home, because satellites will naturally play their role in secure and cost-effective multi-casting of content,” Eutelsat CEO Michel de Rosen said.
          SES World Skies will begin 3-D TV trials in April, working with broadcasters, programmers, TV manufacturers and technology providers in an effort to accelerate the delivery of 3-D TV. The tests will include eight areas of the value chain, from content production to acquisition to programmers, McGuirk said. “There will also be formatting companies, whether it be chipsets or encoders, uplink and transmission players, reception players, pay-TV operators, hardware manufacturers, distributors, and displays — from television sets to shutter glasses,” he said.
          But transmitting 3-D signals could be more demanding than HD, McGuirk said. “I heard someone say that if you produce something bad in HD and it looks bad on the screen, you’re just a bad producer. If you produce a bad 3-D product, on the other hand, you can make people sick. So it is incumbent on all of us to get this right and put the best 3-D products out there, make it stable and really drive consumer acceptance. This is very important for the future of television and satellite, and we’re giving it that level of seriousness,” he said.

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